The actual performance – Tender


Tender
A performance by Theresa Byrnes
June 2012

I was exhausted just before I was to perform. I just didn’t feel up to it. The month of organizing & instructing culminating in four hours of manically preparing the space, projection, soundtrack, lighting, fan to blow my costume, floor covered with leaves and finishing painting black the 9 ft scales.

I had jokingly said to Sean Naftal who built the giant scales for me that I couldn’t wait to try it on. As though the huge apparatus was like a pair of shoes.

Well I would be standing in it. Being wheelchair mobile, to stand isn’t my natural state. I can stand with the right support but I was a little worried, my back had spasmed the day before and I knew that if my toes curled or my feet twisted while standing the pain would be insufferable and I would have to end the performance.

Antony Zito, Simeon Rose, Irene Karpatharkis, Amy Sanchez & I decided my exit –alert code would be 5 blinks.

Sean had warned me that in crucifixion one actually suffocates so my out-stretched arms had to be loosely strung up. I thought going in that I may die, but what better way to go than standing up for what you believe in and saying it in your own way.

Putting on my 9ft gown and laying on the plank – I was slipping into immortal skin, a giant authority, justice, law that is every individual.

My friends (the crew) who have known me for years and have by now worked on many of my projects gulp; I feel their concern as Simeon & Zito raise me bound to the plank & while they screw it in place. I stand 10 ft. tall. The spotlight in my face is too bright & hot, constrained & towering I shriek for them to turn it off. They do & then Andrzej Liguz yells out, “we love you Theresa.”

The audience enters. Amy, adept #1 (leaf girl) places an hourglass at my feet – performance commences. Kristiina Salaka, adept #2 (money girl) places cash on the left scale tray and Amy places leaves on the right. My outspread arms control the weighing arm; my body is the fulcrum.

Amy at various moments gave the audience leaves & Kristiina gave cash-play-money to put into the scales. This was the first time I have invited audience participation in my performance. I was electrified by how clearly people “got it” and how emotional & poetic their contributions were.

At first people put leaves with leaves & money with money but then they started putting money on leaves, I thought it was by mistake at first but then I came to realize that people were making statements of their own: it was their performance too.

A woman burst through the crowd and grabbed all the cash money off the tray and put on the leaf pile & stomped off; her fury was palpable. The performance regained rhythm one to one, leaf to leaf, money to money but then a man calmly straightened, counted 5 or so bills on the tray, folded them and put then in his pocket, normal rhythm resumed, than a woman dumped a huge armful of leaves on the leaf side. Close to the end of the performance a man picked up some cash, gently folded it & slipped it under the hourglass.

To guide the scale arm from left to right needed muscle. Being justice, controlling the balance, was an athletic job. I had expected it to be more graceful but I found myself grunting & my feet begun to ache.

The last sand in the hourglass fell. Amy & Kristiina retreated to the wall and after applause Irene ushered the audience out.

Simeon & Zito unscrewed the plank laying it across 2 chairs to unbind me. Irene unclipped my feet from the ankle braces. I laid down amongst the leaves to rest and re-centre. A man came up and after congratulating me said that if the performance went on much longer people would have broken out into fights as everyone felt that invested.

I had been exhausted and dreading the entire ordeal moments before lift off and now I felt energized and relived. There is nothing like going way beyond yourself and coming back again. Irene said I had a post coital glow.

Kevin O’hanlon & Irene slipped me out of my costume & back into regular clothes.

We did it again! Deeply euphoric that the performance happened without a hitch & equally with my amazing team of talented friends new & old who got sucked into my whirlwind reminding me of the nature of true love & wealth.

Amy Sanchez – Chief assistant & headdress maker
Sean Naftel – construction
Hong Yu – costume
Warren Riznychok – leaf stamper & coffee boy
Ronnie Guzman, Stephanie Howard, Daniella Mamon & Dominick Castiglia – leaf gatherers & sorters
Bobbi Bennett, Video & web support
Simeon Rose, AV & venue prep
Irene Karpathakis, stage manager
Antony Zito – Chief lifter & binder
Kevin O’Hanlon & Jonathan Goldman – filmmakers
Ed Marshall & Andrzej Liguz photography
Kristiina Salaka – money-girl

Special thanks to my L.E.S community who brought me leaves, to Merf Bill for supplying the lumber, to Brian Tate for spearheading the event, to Anne for sourcing an hourglass for me the day of show & to The Hourglass Tavern for loaning it & to The Queens Council On The Arts for their guts, vision & respect.

About Theresa

Australian-born artist Theresa Byrnes began to exhibit her paintings in 1986 at the age of 16. She has had over 20 solo shows at spaces including Saatchi & Saatchi in New York and Australia, Cristianne Nienaber Contemporary Art NYC, the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C., and many galleries in New York and Australia. Her work has been included in Documenta USA, Art Gotham, Redlands/Westpac Invitational Prize and over 25 more group shows. In 1996, Byrnes was awarded a Young Australian of the Year award. Her performance pieces, which have been seen all over the East Village and repeatedly at the HOWL Festival, have been called "wondrous," "purist," and "uncompromising," by London's Daily Mirror. Byrnes published her autobiography The Divine Mistake in 1999 (Pan Macmillan, Australia). She moved from Sydney to New York in 2000 and received Pollock-Krasner awards in 2003 and 2006. A monograph on Theresa Byrnes’s work, unifying her abstract painting, performance art and portraiture, is planned for publication by CHARTA BOOKS in 2012.
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